CHEILE GRADISTEI, Romania — It had been building up all week. After earning bronze in Thursday's individual and silver in Saturday's sprint, Center Conway's Sean Doherty added to his record-setting career medal haul at the IBU Youth/Junior World Championships and completed the countdown in sequence with a gold medal in Sunday's pursuit in Cheile Gradistei, Romania.
The 20-year-old Kennett High graduate showed no signs of pressure as he cleaned his final shooting stage to secure a nearly 30-second victory in the junior men's 12.5-kilometer pursuit and claim the 10th individual medal of his career at the event.
"I could not be happier right now," said a jubilant Doherty. "This race today was the perfect way to end my career as a junior. I could not have even imagined a better race. I want to say thank you to everyone who was cheering on any continent."
Doherty started the pursuit in second place after Saturday's sprint, 11.5 seconds behind leader Felix Leitner of Austria. He was stride-for-stride with Leitner after cleaning the first prone, but fell 21 seconds back after a miss at the second prone stage. However, two misses by Leitner at the first standing, coupled with just one miss by Doherty, propelled Doherty into the lead by 13 seconds with five kilometers and five shots remaining. When he went clean in the final standing, Doherty had sewn up the victory, crossing the line in 36:01.1, 29.6 seconds ahead of Russia's Nikita Porshnev and 38.8 up on Leitner. Full junior men's pursuit results are available here.
Doherty, a 2014 Olympian, finishes his youth/junior career with four gold medals, four silver medals and two bronze medals in the individual competitions at the IBU Youth/Junior World Championships.
Doherty nabbed his second medal of the week in the sprint race on Saturday in Cheile Gradistei, Romania.
Early morning heavy fog gave way to blue and sunny skies as the fourth day of competition began. Despite one penalty in each of the shooting stages, Doherty left standing just 8.7 seconds behind Leitner, but could not reduce the gap as Leitner won his second gold medal of the Junior World Championships, claiming the title in the junior men's 10-kilometer sprint with one penalty in 26:27.1. Doherty finished 11.5 seconds back of Leitner, winning his ninth individual award at the Youth/Junior World Championships, making Doherty the all-time leader in that category.
"Today's race was a great sprint for me," said Doherty. "I felt really good on the skis and I was able to ski the aggressive type of race that I want to. I'm looking forward to the pursuit."
Germany's David Zobel's one penalty helped him to claim the bronze, 39.3 seconds back of Leitner. Rounding out the U.S. team effort was Paul Everett (Tacoma, Wash.) in 62nd, Travis Cooper (Kenai, Alaska) in 86th, and Brian Halligan (Gansevoort, N.Y.) in 92nd place.
Sunday marked Doherty 10th career medal at IBU Youth/Junior World Championships. He had previously set the all-time record on Saturday with nine medals.
"I didn't know I had done it until a good ways after the (sprint) race," Doherty recalled of becoming the most decorated biathlete at youth/junior worlds in an interview for FasterSkier.com. "I was in the press conference (and a reporter) asked the question, and I didn't know until that point that I had set a new record."
When it came down to it, he insisted he was just like every other junior at the championships. He woke up each morning on race days and had to kill time while staying focused until 2:30 in the afternoon. Then, he'd put on his race suit, get into his pre-race routine, and get down to business.
"I get nervous just like any other human," Doherty said. "There's a lot of pressure for these races I just did, and I'm really happy with how I performed with it all, but it's something that's not that easy to deal with."
He reached the podium in all three individual races at these championships and started Sunday's pursuit 12 seconds behind Leitner as the second starter out of the gate. Mostly, Doherty said he focused on his own race and staying confident in his ability to catch Leitner.
"Even though it's tempting to charge out of the game and try to catch Felix on the first lap, it's not smart," he recalled.
After cleaning his first prone stage, Doherty missed his first shot of his second prone. That wasn't ideal, he explained, but he made a point to maintain his energy and keep a good headspace heading into his second loop.
"That wasn't damaging, that one miss," he said.
Meanwhile, Leitner cleaned the first two stages to remain in the lead, by 21 seconds over Doherty. He entered the range for the third time in first, well enough ahead of Doherty that he had fired off his shots before the American settled in.
While Doherty knew it was best to focus on himself, he couldn't help but notice Leitner had missed two in that standing stage.
"I tried to stay to stay calm and not let what was was going on with him not affect me too much. I got a little excited and kind of jerked the last shot," Doherty said.
He missed one, but emerged out of the penalty loop 13.4 seconds before Leitner.
"I just really wanted to finish the race off and I knew that I could do it," Doherty said. "I just tried to think of it like training: I've done this before and nothing crazy needs to happen right now."
The Austrian went on to miss another in his final standing stage (while Doherty cleaned) to fall to third. Russia's Porshnev cleaned his last three stages to take hold of second place.
For Doherty, capping his junior career with gold in the pursuit was perfect.
"I really couldn't have imagined a better ending, really," he said. "This is the perfect end to my junior career.
"I'm still pretty over the moon," he added.
On Monday, Doherty planned to fly home to New Hampshire, where he'll spend the next week recovering leading up to the IBU World Cup in Presque Isle, Maine — about a six-hour drive from his hometown. He is skipping Tuesday's junior relay and the upcoming World Cup in Canmore, Alberta, which starts Thursday.
FasterSkier.com and U.S. Biathlon contributed to this story.
- Category: Personalities